Legends Celebrate 10th Anniversary in Weekly Racing Series
As if Scotia Speedworld’s 25th anniversary a few seasons ago wasn’t big enough, we are coming up on three more milestones in 2014. While we’ll get to the other two in a few weeks, let’s begin with one that some might not come to think of right off as a milestone - and that is the 2014 campaign being the 10th consecutive season of the Legends being a staple division on the Weekly Racing Series.
The division began back in 2005 and has been an inclusion on the Speedworld Friday night program for the last nine seasons, with 2014 being the tenth straight year. I could go on and on with memories and moments that shaped the division as we know it, but we would be sitting here for hours and hours. Let’s begin with this fact though - this division has really become a “cross road” sort of class over the ten years.
What do I mean by cross road? Think about it. Over the past nine years, we have had a lot of drivers make this division a rung in their ladder to the top levels of the sport in this region, especially with the introduction of the US Legend Cars International Bandolero car in 2006. Since then, former champions including DJ Casey, Brad Eddy, Dylan Blenkhorn and Cole Butcher have used the Legend class as a stepping stone to a Late Model ride, with the latter two winning championships at the Legend rank before making the step up.”Miss Rawdon Rocket” Emily Meehan and Shelby Baker are prime examples of talent to come up from the Bandoleros and have groomed their talents in this class and with the talent coming up through the Bandolero class, you can expect the Legend division to continue to be the division at our 3/10-mile oval to hone their short track skills.
This division has also been a place for drivers to do the opposite - drivers stepping back from the upper ranks to find a home in the class or a different change of pace for a bit. Darren Sherwood and Ian Mollins come to mind as two drivers who ran Pro Stocks for years (and in the case of Sherwood, he still moonlights in a Pro Stock from time to time in New Brunswick) and while Sherwood only ran part time with us in 2008, his Berry Mills, New Brunswick neighbor went on to win the championship in that season. A year earlier, Marty Prevost ran full time at his home track in the Legends division and finished second to another driver who has plenty of years of Late Model experience in “The Legend” Cy Harvey. Vance Hanes, Ed Hayden, Ray Cox Jr., Paul Blenkhorn and Danny Harvey are among those with multiple years in both Late Model and Legend racing. Even our own 2013 Dartmouth Dodge Sportsman Series champion Darren Wallage made a start for Sean Kirk a couple season ago.
For others, this division has been has served as a home for many drivers. According to the research I did, Cy Harvey and Justin MacNeill are the only two to have made at least one start in all nine years of the division, with Harvey running his car in all nine seasons (MacNeill made one start in 2011, substituting for Paul Blenkhorn, but did not run his #10 car during the 2011 season). Both of whom also have a championship, with MacNeill winning in 2005 and Harvey taking top honors in 2007. Jeff Cruickshank has been a full time driver in the class since 2006, while Jeff Atkinson has been making the drive from Port LaTour each week since late 2007.
This “cross roads” type feel has given us an unique mix of drivers over the years and has given us some memorable championship battles. In that first year, MacNeill and Hayden tied for the championship, with MacNeill taking the 2005 crown on wins as the tiebreaker. MacNeill would finish in the top five in his next four seasons, including two runner-up finishes in back-to-back season in 2008 and 2009. The ’09 title was one for the history books as Scott MacLean became the first driver to win two Legend car titles at Scotia Speedworld (he won the crown in 2006) by edging out MacNeill in a final main feature that came down to crunching single points to determine the victor. In the end, it came down to a mere four points. That final night of the season was one where former national champ, and at that time, part time NASCAR Nationwide Series driver for Kevin Harvick Incorporated in JR Fitzpatrick came in and took the feature win, driving the #3 car.
The 2009 season was an end of an era when it came to two drivers in the series. The season was the end of Scott MacLean’s racing career after an injury has since prevented him from getting back behind the wheel. MacLean is still very active within the sport and has become iconic not only in these parts, but around North America as one of the best when it comes to setting up a Legend car through his MacLean Motorsports shop in Scotsburn. It was also the last time we saw Ed Hayden full time. The fan favorite from Bedford has been battling illness for the last few years which has kept him out of a race car. I spoke with him briefly in January and can tell you he is doing and feeling much better than he had been, which is great to see. Eddy is one of the nicest gentlemen you’ll ever meet and is one of those guys that can light up a pit area with his presence and is a great guy to have around the track.
If the 2009 season was the end of an era, the 2011 season would have been an ushering in of the “new guard.” I mentioned above that the Bandolero car, which was introduced to Canada and Scotia Speedworld in 2006, has groomed some of the best Late Model drivers in the region. The 2011 season became the debut at Scotia Speedworld for many of those drivers. In his first full time season at the Speedworld in a Legend, ’08 Bandolero champ Dylan Blenkhorn took home the top prize in the Strictly Hydraulics Legend division, with his father Paul not far behind in the second spot in the standings. The season also marked the first full time campaign in a Legend for ’07 Bandolero champion Shelby Baker. Baker, who ran two seasons in a Legend car at the Speedworld, was an impressive wheelman and won a few features in his time in a Legend car. In that first full season, Baker came home in fifth in the standings. The inaugural Canadian Bandolero champion from 2006 in DJ Casey also made a handful of starts in the division in 2011.
Then came 2012, and the emergence of our second two-time Strictly Hydraulics Legends champion. Let’s call a spade a spade, Cole Butcher destroyed his competition in his final year of Bandolero racing in 2010, winning nine feature races that season en route to his first track championship. In that 2010 season, Butcher won the title by 30 points, which, even after Adam Meehan’s six win season this year, stands as the biggest margin of victory in a Bandolero championship at Scotia Speedworld. With that, and some select Maritime League of Legends Tour starts in 2011 under his belt, we all knew Butcher would be good in a Legend car at his home track. Like Dylan Blenkhorn, he showed us the step could be seemingly flawless as he took home the championship in his first full season. He followed it up this past season by taking another championship and with it, became the first back-to-back titlist and only driver other than MacLean to win two track championships in the Legend class while also balancing a full-time foray into the Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour. In 2014, Butcher has his eyes set on his third straight track championship and fourth in five years, which would etch his name into the record books as one of not only the best drivers to strap themselves into a Legend car at the Speedworld, but also as one of the most decorated champions in the history of the track.
Okay, I’m going to back pedal now and talk 2011 a bit more. The rookie battle from 2011 was one that, maybe up until this year, and I’ll touch on that in a moment, nobody could call until the checkered flag flew on the final race. The 2009 Lightning car champion and 2008 Rookie of the Year in the Four Cylinder ranks in Dan Michaud Jr. went toe-to-toe with one of the original Bandolero drivers at the Speedworld and 2010 Hydraulics Plus Bandolero runner-up in Emily Meehan. The two seemingly went back and forth every week with one finishing higher than the other every other race. Meehan made things interesting with a couple weeks to go in the season by winning her first career Legends main feature, but in the end it was Michaud that ended up with the Cathy Ledwidge Memorial Rookie of the Year honor that season by besting “Miss Rawdon Rocket” by 18 points. Both are still mainstays in the class, in the case of Michaud, he has since moved to the Mark Whynot owned #2 Overall Collision car in 2013, and both will eye a championship run in the 10th Anniversary season of the Legends on the Friday night bill at the Speedworld.
There have been some other memorable freshman battles throughout the years. Matthew and Andrew Warren moved up to the Legend ranks in 2012 and battled with fellow Thunder standout Joey Lawson with the Warren brothers besting Lawson by 32 markers. Speaking of Four Cylinder standouts, Derek MacCallum brought home top rookie honors in 2010 by 17 points over New Glasgow’s Greig Muir. MacCallum is expected to make a return to Legends racing in 2014 after a season off, which is great to see as the two-time Thunder car champ is a great competitor on the track and a great sportsman off the track.
One of the closest rookie battles came in 2008 when Hobby Stocker Billy Brewer moved to Legends and won the honor as top newcomer over another former Four Cylinder driver in Mark Williams by a mere five points. Williams is still a part-time competitor at Scotia Speedworld in the Legends class and while Billy isn’t racing with us anymore, his family name is still racing at the track with his brother Travis running a Honda out of the Shady Racing stable for 2012 Thunder champ Kyle MacMillan in the Thunder class.
Also taking top rookie honors over the years include Harry Bremier Jr. last season, Truro’s Neil Stewart in 2009, Geoff Bevan in 2006 and Steve Pye in 2007. I’m sure there will be debate about this, but Pye has to be considered as one of the best drivers to strap into a Legend car over the past nine seasons at the Speedworld to never win a divisional title. He was one of the most exciting drivers to watch on the track and from an announcer stand point was one of the best interviews in the division because, like a Cy Harvey, he spoke his mind anytime you put the microphone in his face. Steve can still be seen around the track most Friday nights but hasn’t ran his own Legend car since the 2010 season. I don’t know about you, but wouldn’t it be cool to see Steve Pye back in a Legend car?
So what does the future hold? This season we are set to see quite a few new faces in the class to challenge the veterans of the class. We are set to see the debut of “the Cookie Monster” Jarrett Butcher, who has high hopes in giving his brother a run for the championship in the class. The only two-time Scotia Speedworld Bandolero champion will also be joined by Nicholas Naugle, who is making the transition from the Bandolero class, where he won a feature last season, to the Legend class for 2014. Naugle, along with the Butchers, recently took part in INEX Winter Nationals in Winter Haven, Florida and was tutored for the week by another former Scotia Speedworld Bandolero feature winner in Ryan Mackintosh. Mackintosh, originally from Amherst, has been living in Kannapolis, North Carolina the last five seasons and became the first international born driver to win a national INEX championship by taking the INEX Semi Pro championship in his Chris Woods Racing and Repair prepared Legend car. With Mackintosh on his contact list, along with some experience down south this winter, Naugle is expected to be fully prepared for his freshman season in the Strictly Hydraulics Legends class in 2014.
Former Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour driver Brad Brown is looking to follow in the footsteps of Ian Mollins and turn Pro Stock experience into a Legends championship at Scotia Speedworld. Scott Negus had a handful of starts last season and will look to take lessons learned from those laps to put a Rookie of the Year title on his mantle. I’m told Jordan Pirri also has a Legend car since the ’13 ended and he will be stepping up to the class while Todd Cousins straps into Pirri’s former Thunder car ride. Rumor mill is also abuzz that we may see Savannah Cruickshank, daughter of Jeff Cruickshank, at the helm this season as well. Add in Drew MacEachern and Scott Williams, who are expected to step out of their Thunder rides for a part-time effort in their recently acquired Legend cars and you have over a half dozen drivers that will look to make tracks and try to put their names into the history books in the tenth season of Friday night Legends racing.
If they want the top of the podium though, they’ll have to fight to get it away from guys like Cole Butcher, Cy and Danny Harvey, Emily Meehan, Jeff Cruickshank, Dan Michaud, Richard Salter, Paul Goulden, Joey Lawson, Jeff Atkinson and well over a dozen more part timers expected to run throughout the season that could turn into full time cars if they find magic early in the season. One thing is for sure, you best believe the tenth year of racing in this class as a weekly division at Scotia Speedworld could be one of the best we’ve seen in years!
Before I sign off from this novel, I want to send out my thoughts to the family and friends of Harry Poole. Mr. Poole was a wonderful man who had a passion and dedication for this sport that went beyond many boundaries and if it wasn’t for the vision of he and Cecil Vance, let’s face it, we may not be here right now reading over a web column about racing at Scotia Speedworld. While I did not know Harry away from the race track, I can tell you from every experience I had with Mr. Poole that he was a very caring man and made me feel more than welcome in the office in Burnside every time I stopped by in recent years. He will be greatly missed.
Until next time, keep the hammer down and we’ll see you at the track.
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